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Musical Heritage

A wide array of ethnic groups has made long-lasting contributions throughout Curaçao's musical history. But the most influential music and dance came from Africa, including the following styles:

Also called “The Curaçao Blues.” First used by Curaçaoan slaves to express their sorrow and frustration with life's hardships. Basic instruments: the tambu (drum), kachu (cow's horn), agan (piece of iron or a ploughshare), and chapi (hoe). Clapping, usually by the women of the island, accompanies the music. This distinctive binary measure African dance style, combines isolation of body parts with elaborate hip gyrations.

The traditional rhythms of Curaçao's harvest festival. Originally a festive march through the fields, the seú is made up of graceful dance steps, called "wapa," mimicking the movements used in planting and harvesting. Early in the 20th century, the opening of the oil refinery and corresponding decrease in agriculture resulted in the end of the traditional seú. Today the dance is performed only in Willemstad's annual folklore parade on Easter Monday, and enjoys the participation from more than 2,000 Curacoans of all ages.

This is one of the most important forms of Curaçao music. The style originated in Africa, although the name comes from a 17th century Spanish dance. As its rhythm evolved – under influence of the merengue and other Afro-Caribbean beats, as well as jazz – the tumba became Curaçao's most popular dance tune. Today's tumba is best known for its part in the official Carnival Road March.

Labor Songs
These songs helped encourage a constant working pace during digging, rowing, and other labor. There would always be an accompanying presenter who knew the repertoire by heart. Labor songs were sung in semi-Papiamentu (Seshi) or in Guene (Afro-Portuguese dialects of the African west coast). Over 1,500 of these songs are known.